Legislative Update: Feb. 9 & 10, 2016
by Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
February 10, 2016
February 10, 2016:
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on Wednesday the 10th. I presented all three of my bills for introduction today, and was successful in getting two bills introduced, with the necessary 2/3 majority.
My title 25 bill, HB78, failed introduction, but I was able to present our county’s concern in this arena. Title 25 is an article of law that involves the involuntary detention of individuals who are a threat to themselves or others. Sublette County has no facility to hold these individuals, and we must transport these individuals out of county, while paying for their first 72 hours of detention, prior to a competency hearing. My bill would have allowed detainees to be held in criminal detention facilities, but only in rooms not used for individuals convicted or charged with crimes. We need a facility in our own community to house detainees, both to reduce costs and to provide better mental health services. When a detainee is moved out of the county, there is no continuity of mental health service, which does not facilitate improving these individuals’ lives. The Title 25 system is broken, and the legislature is working to solve some of these issues. My bill was designed to push Sublette County’s concerns to the larger body, which it did.
My House Joint Resolution, HJ4, easily passed introduction. This resolution asks Congress to seek delisting of the gray wolf and grizzly bear, and to provide Wyoming with federal money to help pay for management and damage compensation, both pre-delisting and post-delisting. When species are removed from protections under the Endangered Species Act, the federal government always attaches strings to that delisting. These strings are usually unfunded mandates, and it is time the people of this great nation help pay for the management of these landscape species. It is unfair to states like Wyoming and individuals affected that they must carry the entire burden for management of these species, unless complete control is handed to the states, but that never happens.
My other bill, HB77, passed introduction, and would give counties the option to send property tax assessments by electronic notification, e-mail, if the taxpayer requests that option. This bill is entirely voluntary by both the taxing agent and the taxpayer. Sublette County’s Treasurer and Assessor asked me to run this bill, and it seems like a win-win situation for everybody. Hopefully, it will create efficiencies for the county in an economic climate where efficiency is important.
I can be reached at email@example.com
Tuesday, February 9, 2016:
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting from Cheyenne on Tuesday, Feb. 9. During budget sessions (like this year), bills require a two-thirds majority vote to be introduced into the Legislature. During General Sessions (like last year), bills are automatically introduced, and then are sent to committee at the pleasure of the Speaker of the House. Introduction is simply the first phase of a bill moving through the process, and those that are introduced still have a long, arduous path forward.
During the morning session, bills that passed introduction included the following:
HB74, Upper Payment limit program - public nursing homes. This bill could be utilized by the Sublette Center if it merges with the Rural Health Care District. HB74 would provide matching Medicaid dollars for nursing homes. I voted for this bill.
HB18, Wolves and Grizzly Bears- limited state action. This bill passed introduction, but I voted against it. This bill would not allow state law enforcement officers, including Wyoming Game and Fish Department, to investigate human caused wolf and grizzly bear mortalities. I support the effort to push the federal government into delisting the grizzly and wolf from the authority of the Endangered Species Act, as their numbers have reached delisting thresholds. I also support the wolf portion of this bill, but not the grizzly bear portion. I worry that Sublette County residents who either inadvertently or in self-defense kill a grizzly bear would not be able to turn themselves into state authorities to investigate the death. I would rather turn myself into the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and have it help investigate my innocence, than rely on the mercy of the Feds.
Other bills that passed introduction and which I supported: A bill that increased the standard for driving a boat under the influence; a bill that made it tougher to take an individual’s property without first convicting him of a crime; and a bill that clarified that senior centers do not have to collect sales tax on meals they provide, a bill that I co-sponsored. Also passing was a bill requiring state agencies to provide a contingency plan if federal grant money goes away; a resolution nominating Kenny Sailors to the Naismith Hall of Fame; a bill authorizing title for abandoned vehicles; and a bill requiring that any refugee resettlement program be authorized by the Legislature. I like this bill because it provides a public, transparent process for any suggested resettlement program. I believe the refugee resettlement bill is prudent, but at the same time, we must remember that we all come from somewhere, and that refugees exist because of actions we take.
Bills that failed to pass introduction today included the following:
HB25, County resolution – feeding wildlife. I voted against this bill. It would have given county commissioners the right to establish wildlife feeding prohibitions in their counties. While I like the home-rule this bill provides, I remain concerned about agricultural producers being in violation of this bill, as incidental feeding of wildlife occurs frequently in conjunction with livestock feeding.
HB3, Marijuana Possession, which decriminalizes Marijuana convictions, and HB 7, Medical Marijuana Reciprocity, which would allow residents from states with pro-Medical Marijuana laws the right to have marijuana in their possession. I voted against both of these bills, because I continue to be concerned about increasing incidents of driving while under the influence, through creating more loopholes in our drug enforcement laws.
Other bills which failed introduction: A bill that would have increased Wyoming’s minimum wage, which I did not support primarily because it went too far; and a bill that would have forbidden employers from asking prospective employees if they have a criminal record, which I did not support partly because insurance companies sometimes restrict employers from hiring people with particular criminal records. This was a great example of why this bill was not ready.